We notched a Memorial Day baseball winner yesterday with the Cubs blanking the Dodgers under strange circumstances. I was banking on Jason Hamel staying strong and the Cubs offense backing him up admirably. Hamel was strong, allowing no runs… but he only lasted two innings do to a muscle cramp. The Cubs say he shouldn’t miss a start, but it did require the bullpen to pull some extra duty yesterday – which they did spectacularly. They handed the ball to long man Travis Wood (nice luxury to have THAT guy, a long time quality MLB starter, in the pen just in case!) and he pitched four scoreless innings and guided the Cubs to the 2-0 victory. They all combined for a one hit shutout. Domination.
The win pushes the Cubs to a ridiculous 35-14 record and riding a six-game winning streak after their first bobble of the year. The ship is righted and it is looking like it is the Cubs and everyone else in the National League.
Let’s see if we can make this a big week and build off yesterday’s winner.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Washington Nationals -110 at Philadelphia Phillies +104 (Total: 7.5)
Joe Ross (4-4, 2.59 ERA) vs. Aaron Nola (4-3, 2.86 ERA)
Tonight features a pair of starters with sub-three ERA’s matching up in a game that is pretty important for the Phillies. They have been the surprise of MLB this season, racing out to a great start and being not only competitive in the NL East, but actually GOOD overall. However, there are a few red flags that tougher times and the regression to the expected could be coming. They have dropped four straight ballgames, have an improbably good record in one-run games (which can be a bit arbitrary in a small sample size) and have a troubling -44 run differential – good for third worst in the National League. To put it in perspective, their run differential is worse than Arizona, Colorado, Milwaukee and San Diego.
But don’t tell that to their young starting pitching, who have been excellent, including tonight’s starter, Aaron Nola. Barely removed from college stardom, Nola has justified the number one selection in the draft and is paying immediate dividends in the big leagues. He enters today with an ERA of 2.86, a dazzling WHIP of 0.92 and a whopping 70 strikeouts against just 12 walks. He got shelled early in the season by the Nationals, but returned to face them twelve days later and delivered one of his best performances of his career, allowing just two hits in seven innings. In his last seven starts, he is 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA.
Joe Ross has been pretty great as well. Another young hurler, he is just 23 like Nola, he is having some pretty big success early in his career. He has only allowed a 2.52 ERA, though his WHIP and k/BB ratio pale in comparison to Nola. His four losses though are due to poor run support. Ross has gotten only seven runs scored for him in his last 31 innings pitched. That could very well be the problem again tonight against a red-hot Aaron Nola.
I’ll take Nola to pitch well and for the Phillies to snap their losing skid tonight at home. I still think Philly is due to level out towards and eventually slightly below .500, but I like them with Nola on the mound tonight.